Barcaldine’s legendary gum celebrates Australian history and award-winning design

Nestled in the small town of Baracaldine, QLD, the iconic Tree of Knowledge is steeped in history and dominates the skyline, visible from 20km away.

Back in 1891 Barcaldine was the site of the great shearers strike. An event so significant it changed Australian history, eventually leading to the formation of the ALP. The shearers met to support each other under a vast ghost gum in the main street. That infamous gum became known as the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ and was an important symbol of the shearers struggle. 

In 2006 the old gum was poisoned and never recovered. It became a shadow of its once impressive self, with only a weathered trunk and a few branches remaining.

Local community, government and architects Brian Hooper and m3architecture joined forces to create the Tree of Knowledge Memorial.

“The ideas for this project are generated by observations into the way human beings create and relive memories,” said architect for the project, Brian Hooper.

“The outcome is not a traditional building but an interactive place that allows us to remember the tree and the space around it. 

“The scale of the structure and the form created by the hanging timbers is based directly on the extent of the tree’s canopy from the period around the 1890s.” 

From a distance, the Memorial takes the shape of a vast cube and featured inside are an array of suspended timbers that take on the form of a modern replacement canopy for the tree. 

The external timbers are charcoaled to create a ‘veil’ around the tree and memorial space. The veil and a glass roof also provide protection from the wind, rain and sun for the surviving part of the original ghost gum.

Visitors enter under the canopy into the ‘shade’ and move into a walk-through area where they can view the root ball of the tree that was salvaged intact with the trunk. This is cleverly displayed through a glass floor and creates the dramatic effect of suspending the visitor above the root ball whilst they are surrounded by the suspended timber above.

The Memorial uses more than 4,913 individual timber members, comprising of 3,449 for the suspended canopy and 1,464 for the external façade. All the timber is recycled and the Memorial structure is rated to a 50-year maintenance free period, minimising maintenance costs for the community and local Council.

The Australian Institute of Architects awarded architect Brian Hooper and m3architecture the 2010 Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage.

“This important work demonstrates the transformative power of architecture and the pivotal role good architects can play in public advocacy and community contribution,” said the Australian Institute of Architects. The Tree of Knowledge Memorial also received a National Commendation for Public Architecture.

Brian Hooper says the Memorial is once again a place where old stories can be told and past events remembered.


Ph: 0 7 3262 5711

Brian Hooper
Ph: 07 4925 0750

Photos: Brian Hooper

Project Particulars:

Architect: Brian Hooper Architect & m3architecture (Architects in association)
Architects in Association: m3architecture
Project Patron: Rob Chandler, Mayor of Barcaldine